Be Kind Rewind is a gimmick movie. The film's writer/director, Michel Gondry, would like the audience to believe that it is more than this, containing a story involving a forgotten jazz musician and a paper-thin plot line about an entire community coming together. However, the film is really just concerned with the fairly interesting "swedes" made by the characters, while everything else, from character development to pacing, feels like an after thought.
In the film, Jerry (Jack Black) becomes magnetized as a result of an unsuccessful sabotage attempt at a power plant. When Jerry goes to visit his friend, Mike (Mos Def), at his job at a local video store, Jerry's current state causes all the videotapes to be erased. In a desperate attempt to not disappoint the store's owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), Mike decides to film new versions of the tapes that got erased, the characters refer to these new versions as "swedes."
Be Kind Rewind is unfocused and proceeds at a sluggish pace. It appears that Michel Gondry is so confident in the entertainment value of the swedes that he is not very concerned with engaging his audience in the beginning. However, once the characters finally decide to make the swedes, there are some great laughs to be had. The first and longest swede, Ghostbusters, is clearly the stand out. When the eccentric characters are making the swedes, the film works. Unfortunately, this is the only case when the film truly works.
Jack Black does his best to carry the film through its plentiful downtime, bringing his natural comical and loud nature to this role as the well-meaning Jerry. Like Jack Black, the rest of the cast clearly approaches Be Kind Rewind with the best intentions. It is always nice to see Danny Glover on the big screen, sadly it is an occurrence that has been steadily declining for quite a while. Melonie Diaz, who plays the boys co-collaborator, Alma, proves to be as delightfully quirky as the male leads. Unfortunately, the cast's great energy cannot liven this stale film.
Be Kind Rewind seems underwritten, which is not too surprising considering the director's emphasis on the visual. When Mike finally decides to make the swedes, the characters just kind of go with it; the idea is created with a whimper, not a bang. There are several plot points that appear out of nowhere, usually never properly developed. At one point, Mike and Alma share a brief almost romantic moment in the video store, but this possible romance is never examined again. Also, the film's ending tries hard to create the sense of genuine wonderment found in the films of the likes of Frank Capra, but Be Kind Rewind did not do enough to make itself a modern fable, causing the ending, like much of the rest of the film, to fall flat. However, at this point Be Kind Rewind has long worn out its welcome, and the audience will most likely be happy that the film has come to an end.
Be Kind Rewind would have been much better served as a short film. Michel Gondry's attempts to stretch the film's fairly interesting idea into a feature length fantastical yarn proved to be ill advised. Be Kind Rewind serves as a lesson in the dangers of investing too much in a fascinating idea and not enough into a decent script.